Early Thoughts on Windows 7

Jun 21, 2010

On Friday afternoon, I finally upgraded my home system to Windows 7. Windows XP was feeling dated, and my old system had slowed to a crawl for unexplained reasons. I also figured it was time to upgrade to a 64-bit OS, so that's the version of 7 that I installed. Here are a few brief thoughts I've had on this new operating system:

New Task Bar
Interestingly enough, the steepest learning curve I've had with Windows 7 has been with the new task bar. I'm quite used to XP's task bar, complete with the quick launch toolbar. The new task bar in Windows 7 rolls these two toolbars into one; essentially combining currently running applications with 'pinned' applications. Also, by default, only program icons are displayed; none of the window titles are shown as a part of each process' button. This new scheme is a little confusing at first, but I'm becoming accustomed to it.
Updated Start Menu
Microsoft finally got smart with the new start menu. No longer does it stretch to the top of the screen when you have a million applications installed. Instead, the "All Programs" menu simply transforms into a scrollable pane, showing the items available. This is a terrific UI change that should have been done at least 10 years ago.
Improved Speed
In the midst of going to Windows 7, I also made several hardware improvements. I upped my memory from 2 GB to 4 GB (I may go to 8 GB if 4 doesn't suffice), I am using a new brand of hard drive (Western Digital, instead of Seagate), and I added a new CPU heat sink. Since I updated a few hardware components, I'm not sure what really made the difference, but most of my applications now start noticeably faster than before. For example, iTunes starts nearly instantly, which blows the previous 15 to 20 second startup time out of the water. Games also start way faster, which is a plus. I love getting performance boosts like this; hopefully they will hold up over time.
There are other minor things that I find interesting about the Windows 7 experience:
  • Installation was amazingly fast, and I was only asked one or two questions.
  • Drivers thankfully haven't been an issue (so far).
  • The built-in zip file support has apparently been vastly improved; it's orders of magnitude faster than XP. I'm not sure I'm going to install WinZip seeing as the built-in support is so good.
  • The new virtualized volume control is epic; why wasn't it like this all along?

So far, I'm pleasantly surprised with Windows 7. Some of the new UI takes getting used to, but this looks like a positive step forward; both for Microsoft and for my home setup.

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